Today in OpenGov: What’s the deal with EPA’s data, Mar-a-Promo, and more…


In today’s edition, we share more strategies for small cities looking to do big things with open data, ask why fewer lobbyists are spending more money this year, dig into the complicated communications situation around a vital EPA data site, and more…

states and cities

  • Strategies for small cities getting started with open data. Sunlight’s Alyssa Doom continued to help small cities embrace open data by sharing some proven strategies on the Sunlight Foundation blog and encouraging interested cities to investigate the What Works Cities Certification Program.
  • Bethlehem, Pennsylvania moves towards open data. “In Bethlehem, city leaders are considering posting already public information online, hoping data lovers might spin it into something useful.” Last month, the city council passed a resolution that would result in an open data plan. (The Morning Call)
  • Indiana governor vetoes legislation that would have imposed unnecessary fees on public records requests. Earlier this month, we urged Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to veto a bill that would have put a fee on public records access. Yesterday the governor announced that he had done just that. Get the full story and read the governor’s statement on Twitter.


  • Mapping Trump’s global conflicts of interest. “President Donald Trump came into office pledging to avoid conflicts of interest by resigning from his global business empire and handing control to his sons. Despite those steps, more potential conflicts have surfaced since his inauguration, fueled by the president’s critics and, in one case, his own tweet. Prominent examples – and the White House rebuttals – are summarized here.” (VOA News)
  • State department pulls blog post on Mar-A-Lago following ethics complaints. “The U.S. State Department has removed its promotional posting about President Donald Trump’s Florida resort, after a storm of ethics criticism Monday…In an April 4 blog post that was republished by several U.S. embassies abroad, Mar-a-Lago was described as ‘Trump’s Florida estate,’ where he has hosted foreign leaders.” (Associated Press) Check out Quartz, The Hill, and POLITICO for more coverage.

elsewhere in washington

  • Pop-up, miscommunication fuel as-yet unfounded fears of EPA open data disappearance. Yesterday, a pop-up message indicating that the Environmental Protection Agency’s open data portal would be going offline at the end of this week sparked fear that the data could disappear permanently. It appears that the message was related to a potential government shutdown and representatives from the EPA have since clarified that the portal and its data are not going anywhere. For more on this story we recommend reading this story on Snopes, Alex Howard’s thread on Twitter, and our statement on Facebook.
  • New law allows NOAA to purchase weather data from commercial satellite systems. “…the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 [signed this week by President Trump] allows NOAA to spend up to $6 million a year to conduct a pilot procurement program that will study the effectiveness of commercial data to aid weather forecasts from fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2020.” (Government Executive)
  • Ethics watchdog files complaint tied to Georgia special election. “A conservative-leaning ethics foundation filed an inquiry Monday with the Office of Congressional Ethics, asking it to look into Rep. Hank Johnson’s use of official resources to help Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign.” (Roll Call)
  • Number of registered lobbyists drops, spending increases. Potentially in response to President Trump’s strong rhetoric on the campaign trail “from January to March, the number of registered lobbyists dropped 10.3 percent compared to 2016’s first quarter, with only 9,175 official lobbyists on record. That number has been declining in recent years, but this is the biggest drop since lobbying reports started being reported quarterly.” Meanwhile, total lobbying spending had its biggest 1st quarter since 2012. (

save the dates

  • #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets hereThis one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress.
  • April 26th, 6:00 PM: “Participatory Organizing: From Co-Op to Network to Mass Movement” in Washington, DC. The OpenGov Hub is hosting a co-created workshop on collaborative culture and non-hierarchical organizing. We combine storytelling and participation to learn together about democratic, bottom-up organizing at different scales: from co-ops, to networks, cities and nations. We’ll offer some practices and tools that have helped us, and discover the intelligence in the room too. Learn more and register here.
  • April 27th, 7:45 AM, DATA Act Breakfast “Spending Data Unleashed”, in Washington, DC. “The Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton invite you to a breakfast panel discussion for a front-row seat on the first fruits of the DATA Act. Join us on Thursday, April 27th, at the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Center.” Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • April 28th, 11:00 AM: Digital Inclusion Asset Mapping, Connect Chicago Meetup in Chicago, Illinois. “At the next Connect Chicago Meetup we will break into working groups to co-build a better shared inventory of public digital inclusion resources and assets.” Learn more here.
  • May 17th and 18th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the Kemp Forum in Washington, DC. “Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress.” Learn more here.
  • May 17th: The 2017 Door Stop Awards in Washington, DC. “Lincoln Network and The OpenGov Foundation are joining forces to present the 2017 Door Stop Awards for Congressional Innovation and Transparency. Awards will be presented on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at an evening party as part of Reboot Congress.” Learn more here.
  • May 19th and 20th: Global Legislative Openness Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. “This 2-day event is hosted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and Open Parliament Initiative in Ukraine. The event will convene leading legislators, government officials, and civil society representatives to consider how legislative openness can strengthen public trust in representative institutions and build a responsive, 21st century legislature. In addition, the conference will explore how parliaments can best leverage the Open Government Partnership’s new legislative engagement policy to develop and implement legislative openness plans and commitments.” Learn more here.
  • June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. “The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen.” Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.
  • September 11th and 12th: TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. “TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts.” The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. Learn more, submit a session proposal, and register to attend here.


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